By Aubrey Boggs, CMWN Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator

People use unfriendly language about mental health to express negative feelings about someone quite often. People have called me “crazy”, a “nut job”, “unstable”, and many other cruel words because I have a mental health condition. These words carry the weight of a history of discrimination underneath them.

New York Times columnist and economist, Paul Krugman, recently stated on twitter, “An American first: a president who was obviously mentally ill the moment he took office.” Krugman meant for this statement to reflect negatively on the president. Trump and his beliefs aside, calling someone “mentally ill” based on your perception of their actions further stigmatizes people living with mental health conditions.  Krugman, as far as I can see, does not have the qualifications to diagnose anyone.

That stigma leads directly to discrimination. It convinces people that they should avoid seeking treatment or support. It keeps people from finding recovery and wellness because they reasonably want to avoid stigma and discrimination. Mental health conditions affect people in a myriad of ways. We shouldn’t diagnose someone just because they do or say something we don’t like.  We need to stop using mental health conditions as the scapegoat of opposition.

It can help to talk to people about why language can be harmful. This can be powerful if you have experienced discrimination or stigma because of having a mental health condition. When people realize that their language directly affects the well-being of others, they may be more likely to think before they speak. Talking about these things can also help challenge the stigma around mental health conditions. Seeing that someone can live well with a mental health condition often challenges the preconceived notion that people living with mental health conditions are dangerous or unpredictable.

Hope is essential to recovery, and there is no hope in labels and stigma. Challenge that viewpoint with hope; challenge the stigma by living well. Even if people choose to continue using stigmatizing language, individuals with mental health conditions will be encouraged to seek help when they see that wellness and recovery are real.


Paul Krugman status:

Blog by Aubrey Boggs, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator, on stigma:

Blog by Kate Fitch, Communications Specialist, on diagnosing Trump:

It’s time to end the stigma
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Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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